Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Heck of a Shopping Haul.....At a Hotel?

You can score fabulous finds at hotels.  Really.  The Wall Street Journal explores the rise of niche luxury hotel boutiques in Thursday's edition.

"The traditional hotel gift shop is getting an overhaul. Upscale properties hope to turn them into places where guests, and even locals, will want to linger and spend money—day after day."

The thing is, you don't have to spend a ton of cash.  Sure, there are some hotel boutiques that stock items that cost a fortune but many will discount their goods in effort to move them.

Some of my hotel scores include:

● A great Trina Turk bathing suit cover-up from the Ritz Carlton, Marina del Rey at half off the retail price for the same item I spotted at two different Trina Turk boutiques.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

That Sports Mama: Pressure to Get the Body Back After Baby

Any new mother has enough on her plate before even thinking about getting her body back into pre-baby shape.  From 11pm nursing sessions followed 2am feedings coupled with the diaper changes and endless loads of laundry, those first few months challenge the resolve of even the most maternal women.  The latter, something I would never call myself.   More on that in posts to come.
While I was overwhelmed with all those new-mom realities, I was focused on dropping the 15 pounds of baby weight I had left almost immediately.  I lost about 11 in the hospital during the birth.  It took eight months to drop the remaining weight.  With those final five pounds the hardest to lose, something I chronicled in Project Drop the Baby Weight.

The crazy thing is I felt no pressure to lose the weight except from myself.  No one said to me, "Girl, you better be a size 4 in 6 weeks!"  Apparently I am in the minority.  Sunday's New York Times examines the burden celebrity moms face to get back into pre-baby shape and the spillover effect it has had on the expectation of non-celeb moms post-baby bodies in a piece titled "Can a Mom Get a Break?"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Good Juice Doesn't Have to Cost a Fortune

I love great hooch more than the next person.  I will spend triple digits on a quality bottle of wine if it's part of an experience that my friends and I will cherish for years to come.

Praying this has been stored properly!

But even more than great pricey bottle, I love a good wine value.  Eric Asimov has a great feature in Thursday's New York Times profiling what he considers "12 Values in American Wines"

Included on the list are two of my favorites:

Qupé Santa Barbara County Marsanne 2011, $20
Bob Lindquist is one of the unsung heroes of California wine, and his Qupé label is consistently overlooked, possibly because he makes wines of little-known Rhône grapes like marsanne. This is actually a blend of two Rhône grapes, 79 percent marsanne and 21 percent roussanne. Pleasantly weighty and harmonious with persistent floral, nutlike flavors. 

Heitz Napa Valley Grignolino 2009, $20
Grignolino? From Napa Valley? While other producers have converted their Napa vineyards of esoteric grapes into more lucrative cabernet sauvignon, Heitz has held out and continues to make this ruby-colored red, bone dry with dark, spicy flavors and a refreshing bitterness.

Both wonderful bottles and perfect hostess gifts that will never disappoint.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A 2014 Cowboys Training Camp Travel Guide

On the fence about about visiting the Cowboys in Oxnard for training camp? Get off it and go.

Jordan at Training Camp, 2013
It's a great opportunity to watch the Cowboys practice, something you can't do during the regular season.  You might also be lucky enough to snag autographs as players willingly sign for fans once practice ends.  Fair warning: the afternoon practices are packed and there is a fair amount of jostling for space to get certain signatures.

The Cowboys opening press conference is 5pm on Wednesday. Here is the full training camp schedule. You can still get relatively affordable August airfare to Los Angeles on Virgin, Southwest or American.
Visit Ventura
Here's the thing: Oxnard, as a city itself, isn't that great.  It's like any other American suburb, granted with the Pacific Ocean hugging its edge and strawberry fields rolling along the interstate.   Lodging options are basically limited to the Marriott Courtyard and the Residence Inn where the Cowboys practice.  Getting rooms at the latter are nearly impossible during camp.

If you can, stay in Ventura.  There is a nice Marriott with beach access, a gorgeous running trail along the beach and, of course, the legendary Ventura County Fair.  Downtown Ventura is darling with eclectic shopping and decent dining.   Here are some restaurant where I have spent my hard-earned per diems in the past:
Ventura Pier/Image Via

Try Montecito & Santa Barbara
Again, Ventura is lovely but if you're up for a GREAT side trip, head 35 miles north on the 101 to visit Montecito, perhaps my favorite city in the U.S.  

I have been going to Cowboys camp in Oxnard since the team held it's inaugural camp there in 2001. By some grace of God, and courtesy of well-connected friends, I've been visiting Santa Barbara and Montecito, the area that some call the American Riviera, since I was child.

My family shows Arabian horses.  We have participated in and attended horse shows at Santa Barbara's world famous Earl Warren Showgrounds for more than 30 years.  I try to get there at least once a summer and the experience never disappoints. July 30th-August 4th is Santa Barbara's legendary Old Spanish Days. The celebration is definitely worth visiting if you'll be in the area.

I prefer to stay in Montecito, the cozier, albeit wealthier and more exclusive town just south of Santa Barbara.  Montecito is home to race car legend Andy Granatelli, Oprah Winfrey and a slew of other multi-millionaire celebrities.  Montecito is separated into two villages: the lower, on Coast Village Road, and the labyrinth-like upper. 

Image Via Montecito Inn
The lower village is one long street right off the 101.  There you will find the little hotel I always enjoying visiting, the Montecito Inn, which is quite reasonable.  Once you are there and plan on staying in Montecito, you really don't need a car.  The hotel will give you beach cruisers to explore the area.  It is next door to the town's hottest spot, Lucky's steakhouse, owned by the founder of Lucky Brand jeans. On any given night, you will find Carol Burnett, Kevin Costner, and, during Cowboys camp, members of the Jones family.

Other great spots include Cava, a spanish tapas joint as well as the bar and restaurant scene at the Four Seasons Biltmore, located right across from the beach.  The sunset views are glorious.  If you stay at the Four Seasons or happen to be a member of a reciprocal club, you can gain access to the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana. 

Courtesy Coral Casino
The Coral Casino was a tony exclusive club that opened in 1937 before falling into disrepair.  Beanie Babies founder-turned-hotel-entrepreneur Ty Warner has remodeled and rebranded it as an exclusive beach club for the west coast elite.  It is delicious.  Think beach club, California chic with an outstanding saltwater pool and first-class fitness center.

Montecito estate
The best part of the upper village is the estates.  The mansions and villas are breathtakingly stunning.  Take a drive through the hills and play the guessing game of "who lives there".  There is a great little shopping center which features Pierre LaFond, a market that is a perfect place for a break after driving around Montecito's winding hills.

The upper village is also home to the Rosewood-managed San Ysidro Ranch, one of the most luscious (and expensive) resorts you'll find.  John F. Kennedy spent his honeymoon there with Jackie.  Skip the stay and dine in one of the hotels two restaurants, The Stonehouse or Plow & Angel.  They make outstanding margaritas.  

Montecito coastline
The best part of Montecito is free: just walking along the beach.  So, if you visit Cowboys camp, make the drive to the sleepy, yet luxurious village and simply go for a sunset stroll.  It will make you forget any triple digit temperatures haunting your friends back home.

Save on Summer Hotels
If you're thinking about heading that way, is offering 10% off on select hotels with the code JUL1410NA! Book by 7/27/14, Travel By 9/28/14. Might be worth checking out.
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